Bringing Baylor Back

Times Staff Writer

Scott Drew offers a handshake, a smile and a pile of Baylor T-shirts and baseball caps to strangers. He presents copies of stories where his current basketball recruiting class is ranked No. 14 in the nation.

He pulls out the Baylor basketball media guide where pages about the Christian values of Baylor -- a school founded to provide an educational environment consistent with the beliefs of Baptists -- are dog-eared from frequent use.

There is a page devoted to the Drew family. Scott is the son of Homer Drew, the folksy, friendly former coach of Valparaiso, and the brother of Bryce Drew, who always will be remembered at NCAA tournament time for his last-second shot to upset Mississippi and give Valparaiso a national face. Scott was an assistant coach of that team.


That face was the Drew family, a family entwined by basketball and its Christian faith.

There also is a page in the Baylor media guide devoted to Patrick Dennehy. There is no page for Carlton Dotson.

There is a place in the hearts of Baylor players for both Dennehy and Dotson.

“I love them both,” said Tommy Swanson, a center for the Bears. “And at this point, what else is there to say?”

So much has already been said.

Last June, Dennehy, a transfer from New Mexico, disappeared from his apartment, from the locker room, from the other end of the cellphone he used to call his girlfriend.

Baylor Coach Dave Bliss made a tearful television appearance expressing his love for and appreciation of Dennehy. Ugly rumors began traveling across the campus. But the rumors weren’t nearly as ugly as the truth.

Dennehy’s body was found in a gravel pit with two gunshot wounds to the head. Dennehy’s teammate, Dotson, was arrested and charged with Dennehy’s murder. Bliss was captured on a tape made by an assistant coach exhorting his players to lie, to tell the media, the police, anyone who asked, that Dennehy had been involved in drugs. The lie was supposed to persuade the police that Dennehy’s slaying was related to drugs and not to anything nefarious in the Baylor basketball program.

By the time Dennehy was buried, Bliss had resigned. There were calls for the end of the Baylor program and demands that Baylor, the only private school in its conference, leave the Big 12.


Dotson now sits in a Waco jail cell, refusing interviews. Bliss reportedly is helping coach a high school team in Colorado. Athletic Director Tom Stanton resigned. The coach who taped Bliss, Abar Rouse, disappeared. When a Fort Worth Star-Telegram photographer found Rouse and took a photo, the coach begged that his location not be disclosed.

“Frankly,” said Matt Richards, a Baylor student and sportswriter for the student newspaper, “I couldn’t imagine we’d even be able to hire a coach. I mean, who would want to come here? What kind of future did we have?”

Baylor President Robert Sloan met Drew in an airport hotel room in Chicago in August. Drew had taken over the Valparaiso job from his father last year to allow Homer Drew to become an assistant to the university president.

The 33-year-old Drew bounced into that hotel room, Sloan said, “and the room was transformed. His powerful energy just captivated us. He was prepared. He knew all about Baylor, he knew all of us, about our program. I can’t explain it any other way except that those of us in the room were overwhelmed.”

So Drew got the job. He came to Baylor to hear the whispers.

“You couldn’t have sold this story to the movies or television,” Grant Teaff said. Teaff once coached the Baylor football team and now heads the American Football Coaches Assn., which is based on campus.

“You couldn’t have the outline of a story where one player [is accused of murdering] another player and [hiding] the body. Where the coach tells such a self-serving lie. It still seems unreal. And you had to deal with a locker room full of kids who had an experience no one could be prepared for.”


Drew arrived Aug. 29. He was presented with a mentally battered, heartbroken group of leftovers. The NCAA had given a dispensation of its transfer rule to Baylor players. They could leave for other schools without sitting out a year. The best fled.

Lawrence Roberts starts for No. 7-ranked Mississippi State. John Lucas III, son of former NBA player and coach John Lucas, starts at point guard for No. 13 Oklahoma State. Kenny Taylor went to No. 11 Texas.

Baylor is on a self-imposed two-year probation. An NCAA investigation continues into possible violations that began to trickle out when Dennehy disappeared.

“Things were pretty stacked against us,” said Swanson, one of only two non-seniors who decided not to bail out. “To be honest, the only reason I stayed is because I thought I’d get more playing time in this situation. Sometimes I think I’m getting more playing time than I can handle.”

This season, and probably the next few seasons, were supposed to be disasters. Many preseason predictions had the Bears losing all their Big 12 games. There were only seven scholarship players, a number that dropped to five in December when two players had academic problems. The NCAA stepped in again, though, and allowed the two to finish this season.

“By the time I arrived,” Drew said, “the mourning period was over. I felt like it was my job to talk about the future. My job was to coach this basketball team. It wasn’t to wish for another basketball team. The guys who left, I understand. The guys who stayed, I want them to feel as if they are the first part of building something that will be solid and great.”


The Bears are 6-14 overall and 1-6 in the Big 12. Baylor defeated Iowa State, 73-69, at home. The Bears had a chance to take the lead against Texas Tech at the Ferrell Center with less than six minutes to go before losing, 75-66. They cut a 20-point, second-half Oklahoma lead to under 10 before losing, 78-67.

Afterward Oklahoma Coach Kelvin Sampson said Drew may be doing as good a coaching job “as anybody in our league, maybe in the country.”

“The thing that makes you wonder,” Sampson said, “is what if they had the team they should have? How good would they be? The guy is doing a fantastic job in the right way.”

Teaff, who watches as many games as he can, said he thinks Drew came into a situation more difficult than any coach in any sport has ever taken on. “What happened in the first place was too far-fetched,” Teaff said. “The shape of the team and of the campus was terrible.

“If ever there was a right guy for a situation, though, this young man is. He brings an enthusiasm that is real. He has a great gift for coaching and a thorough knowledge of the game, but what really impresses me is the way his team plays. They don’t quit. Scott took over something not of his doing, and he never whines or cries about it. He jumped in with both feet and has managed to make alumni, fans, other coaches, the players, have pride in a dismal situation.”

“I’ve never had a coach so young,” said Terrance Thomas, a senior forward. “I’ve never had a coach with so much enthusiasm either.”


Thomas was one of the players who served a brief suspension for academic problems. “I admit I thought I could maybe slide by because of what happened,” Thomas said. “Stuff was maybe getting to me.”

Thomas said he sometimes still expects to see Dennehy and Dotson. “What happened last summer doesn’t seem real. I don’t think it will ever seem real to me,” he said.

Richards, who covers the team for the school paper, said, “I was dreading men’s basketball season, and now it’s turned into a joy. On campus, there is actual optimism about the future. I really don’t know how Scott does it, but he does an amazing job.”

There have been some criticisms of Drew. He hired Jerome Tang, a high school coach from Heritage Christian Academy near Houston. Houston public school coaches had often accused Tang of recruiting their players. Tang also had strong ties to a Nike-sponsored summer league in Houston.

Drew said people he trusted told him Tang was a good person.

“What I found was that Coach Tang has always been in coaching for the kids, not the money or anything else,” he said.

And Bob Knight voiced displeasure after Texas Tech’s close call in Waco two weeks ago that the academically ineligible players had been allowed to play.


“If kids can’t do the job in the classroom and can’t meet the standards set by the NCAA and this league, then I think it’s a very bad precedent to set, regardless of the circumstances,” Knight told reporters.

But it was the circumstances -- the emotional upheaval, the pain of losing teammates, of watching a coach turn on a dead player to save his own reputation -- that Drew said the NCAA took into consideration.

“These kids have gone through something no one should,” Drew said. “I only asked that somebody think about them.”

Thomas said he is convinced that Drew will have the Bears in the NCAA tournament by the time all the probations and NCAA penalties have been levied and served. Swanson said he is glad he stayed at Baylor.

“I know, now, that something good will come out of this,” Swanson said. “We went through the fire, and now we’re out. I’m a stronger, better person. I’ve learned how teammates need to watch out for one another. Humans have to watch out for one another. There are no shortcuts either.

“And when this thing is done here, I’m going be proud to say I was a Baylor Bear and I will feel I had something to do with building the good from the bad.”